Grounding identity and mission in Catholic universities: A relational approach


Since at least the 1960s, responding to changes both in the world and in the Church the project of Catholic university education in the United States and elsewhere has undergone a significant alteration in structure, and subsequently of its own sense of identity, purpose, and mission. Concerns about the integrity of Catholic universities both as Catholic and as university abound and have done for some time. Providing a brief review of some of the existing literature, this paper argues that the contemporary discussion regarding identity and mission for Catholic colleges and universities suffers from a decidedly modern inability to the address first order questions. This failure to properly treat questions pertaining to metaphysics render Catholic institutions of higher learning locked within the superficial plane in terms of how they address their own sense of identity and mission. In response to this, this paper argues that there exists within the Catholic tradition adequate metaphysical richness that can and should more faithfully ground the essence of the Catholic college or university. Drawing on the metaphysical work of such figures as David L. Schindler and others, the author argues that a relational ontology, characterized by an understanding of the metaphysics of gift can not only save the project of Catholic university education but is in fact central to its mission.


Catholic university, Relational ontology, identity and mission, Catholic higher education, Faith and reason, Expanded reason

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